The 6 'Ps' of Managing Lupus

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When I was in the sixth grade, I played the lead role of Scout in our community theater's production of "To Kill A Mockingbird." The show ran for four nights at the Warner Robins Civic Center, which was just as great as the Kennedy Center in my elementary school eyes. Cast members, other than we three kids playing Dill, Jem and Scout, were amazing members of the local community – dentists, physicians and teachers. My mother encouraged me to spend as much time as possible with these leaders because I was not only learning about racial inequality and rape – major themes of Harper Lee's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel-turned-play – but I was also being mentored by the best of our little town.

The director of the play, a dentist, took good care of his patients, his theater audience and his actors. He was constantly reminding us to think about what happens next, or the "what ifs" of life. It was behind those curtains that I first learned the remarkable saying, "Prior Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance."

Those six P's have come to be resonating taglines for my life. Yes, we had to memorize the lines and how the blocking took us from stage right to stage left – but we also had to be prepared for the events that might happen during the performance that were not part of the script: an outcry from the audience due to the subjects Mockingbird covered, a major actor forgetting a line, etc. 

The Consequences of Poor Planning

Fast forward to 1993, when my lupus raised its ugly head again while driving to Florida with one of my dear friends. I was menstruating, had been experiencing a three-day migraine, and was stressed out about my mid-level PR job. Then, the unthinkable happened. I went dark – as in, I couldn't see anything. My best friend knew what to do; a nurse practitioner, she had been trained in the six P's. She got me to Fish Memorial Hospital (a funny name for a hospital in Florida) and the rest is history. I had had a stroke at age 26. The light came back within about 48 hours. Unfortunately, I ultimately lost the right peripheral vision in BOTH eyes, so it was like my eyesight was split into columns, and I could only see every other column.

It took a year of rehab to retrain parts of my eyes to see, thanks to amazing physicians like my neuro-ophthalmologist, Robert Spector, my neurosurgeon, Roy Vandiver, my OB/GYN, Jay Kulkin, and my rheumatologist, John Goldman. The team trained the left periphery of my right eye to cover for the middle column. I never regained site on the far right side.

Throughout this incident, the six P's stood out clear and strong. If I had properly planned prior to the trip, I would have seen a doctor before getting on the road with a three-day migraine. I knew better, but I did it anyway. I was stressed out about making money for my family – about providing my share to our nest. So, I made the wrong decision, got in the car and off I went.  In retrospect, I should have gotten in the car, gone to the doctor and gotten some perspective on this long-standing migraine and other symptoms I was feeling. All the signs were there – I just was being bull-headed and not paying attention.

Incorporating the 6 "Ps" into My Life

Today, the six P's are my guide. Yes – I fail them too, but I can laugh at myself and know that I didn't "prior proper plan." I am always thinking about when the shoe is going to fall, and what I can do to be prepared. For example, if I am running a special event, I know what to have on hand to handle a red wine spill on a woman's white dress, or if I am preparing remarks for an executive for a media relations summit, I brainstorm questions that a journalist might ask when the remarks are over.

If you have lupus, these six words can change your life. What can you put in your purse, your car, your bedside table or your desk that can help you prior proper plan so you prevent poor performance? What can you put in your HEART that guides you to the same? What can you put in your MIND today that shields you from pain and lets you see the world as a glass half full? This is a legacy. These six words can change your life. They changed mine.

Elyse Hammett is a partner in a public relations firm, the mother of a teenage daughter and lives with her husband in Atlanta, Georgia.

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